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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

Power ranking the 8 remaining Champions League teams

Man City, Barcelona and Juventus are among the favourites.

File pic.
File pic.
Image: firo Sportphoto/Jürgen Fromme

8. Porto

IN MOST PEOPLE’S eyes, the weakest side remaining in the competition. They topped a relatively easy group ahead of Schalke, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow. Sérgio Conceição’s men then narrowly overcame Roma in the round of 16, winning 4-3 on aggregate after extra time. They have decent experience at this level, reaching the competition’s knockout stages in seven of the last 10 seasons, though never getting further than the quarter-finals during that period. And it would be a surprise if they break that trend this year. The Primeira Liga outfit have a title race with Benfica, who they are currently level on points with, to focus on too, while they will likely struggle against their better-resourced opponents in Europe.

7. Ajax

Their shock defeat of Real Madrid highlighted that Ajax deserve to be taken seriously, but it is a long time since they have gotten this far in Europe’s elite club competition, and their lack of experience at this level could be their downfall ultimately. Football purists would love to see them progress further, with fantastic players consistently being produced by their academy, but the squad’s youth and inexperience is eventually expected to catch up with them — particularly as they have a title race in the Eredivisie to worry about as well, with PSV currently two points ahead of them at the top.

6. Tottenham

Perhaps the most unpredictable team left in the competition. On their day, Spurs are capable of beating almost anyone, as they showed with their emphatic victory over Dortmund in the last round, as well as in the impressive win against Real Madrid in the group stages last season. However, they are too unreliable to be strongly fancied in Europe this year, as the tally of one point from their last four Premier League matches illustrates. They may not even make next year’s Champions League if their current sub-par form continues.

5. Man United

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Parc des Princes Man United players celebrate the win over PSG. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Man United claiming Europe’s biggest prize seemed a virtual impossibility given the chaos which enveloped the club earlier in the season. Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over from Jose Mourinho, however, they have shown remarkable resilience as epitomised by their improbable comeback against a highly fancied PSG outfit in the last round. Along with Tottenham, they are the only side left in the competition who are not competing for a domestic title, which could work to their advantage. Nonetheless, there are a number of teams left in Europe who simply have better players at their disposal, so United will need plenty more PSG-esque heroics to prevail.

4. Liverpool

We’re getting to the stage now of teams with a genuinely strong chance of triumphing. Many people suggested Liverpool’s league title hopes could serve as a distraction from their European ambitions, but their convincing 3-1 aggregate victory over Bayern Munich last night suggested they are capable of handling the pressure. They have arguably the world’s best defender in Virgil van Dijk and one of the most potent attacking forces in Europe with Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, meaning they deserve to be considered among the favourites this year.

3. Juventus

Many people suspected Juve were a spent force after their 2-0 loss to Atletico in the round of 16 first leg, but they emphatically silenced the doubters with an unlikely 3-0 second-leg win. They have the Serie A title virtually wrapped up, as they sit 18 points ahead of Napoli, so unlike many of the remaining sides, they don’t have the added pressure of a closely fought title race to worry about. Cristiano Ronaldo, their star man, had a slow start to this year’s competition — he had scored just once in Europe before this week, leading some critics to suggest that his best days might be behind him. Nevertheless, a stunning hat-trick on Tuesday propelled his team to the quarter-finals and his presence in the side, coupled with several other highly experienced campaigners, means the Turin-based outfit are among the best-placed teams to win this year’s competition.

2. Barcelona

With the likes of Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez, Barca undoubtedly have one of the most talented squads left in the competition. They are currently seven points clear in La Liga, with Messi in fine form, as his two goals and two assists in the 5-1 mauling of Lyon emphasised. In Europe, however, they have been eclipsed by bitter rivals Real Madrid, who have won four of the last five Champions Leagues, with Barca the only side to have broken that trend in 2015. A shock 3-0 loss to Roma in the quarters last year, having won the first leg 4-1, highlighted their vulnerability. They have also yet to be really tested by an elite team in Europe this season. They comfortably topped their group ahead of Tottenham, Inter and PSV, before outclassing their Ligue 1 opponents more recently.

1. Man City

The best side in Europe in many people’s eyes, City are currently on course for a second successive Premier League title, as they lead Liverpool by a point at the top of the table as the season approaches its climax. Their merciless 10-2 aggregate destruction of Schalke in the round of 16 served as a warning signal to their rivals. The Etihad club’s success is far from certain, however. City have never won the Champions League and have just a sole European trophy to their name — the 1970 Cup Winners’ Cup. All of the other sides left in the competition have more illustrious histories, while even Pep Guardiola, arguably the world’s most acclaimed coach, has his doubters. He has not won the Champions League since overseeing Barca’s triumph in 2011 and the manager has agreed with critics who say accomplished stars such as Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez were primarily responsible for the team’s success on that occasion.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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